May 29 (Reuters) - Sweden's Artemis Racing go into the 35th America's Cup as one of the strongest challengers for international sport's oldest trophy, after showing impressive speed in the build-up.
Defending champion and Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill identified Artemis, in their distinctive blue and yellow catamaran "Big Blue", as one of his biggest competitors after the Swedish crew excelled in practice racing.
Artemis became the first team to beat Oracle Team USA on Sunday in the America's Cup qualifying event which is taking place in Bermuda this week.
Artemis was founded in 2006 by Swedish oil trading magnate and sailor Torbjorn Tornqvist and is well prepared after launching its America's Cup challenge in 2010.
The boat is skippered and helmed by Australia's Nathan Outteridge, working with British team manager and tactician Iain Percy, both of whom are Olympic gold medallists.
Outteridge's Olympic sailing partner Iain Jensen is also on board, with the critical role of trimming the mighty "wing" sail which powers the Swedish team's 50-foot catamaran.
Artemis has rallied from a devastating blow in 2013 when Percy's Olympic partner Andrew "Bart" Simpson died in a sailing accident in San Francisco before the last America's Cup.
Percy says Simpson is missed by the whole America's Cup community as he had friends among all the teams involved.
"He would have loved the technology part of the race. He had an amazing way of coming up with ideas from left field, (but) he may not have enjoyed the grinding so much," Percy told Reuters in a telephone interview before the event began.
With the backing of Tornqvist, co-founder of world's largest independent commodities trading house Gunvor, Artemis are among the best financed of the America's Cup challengers.
"We need a good result, we owe that to ourselves and to Torbjorn," Percy said. (Reporting by Tessa Walsh and Alexander Smith in London, editing by Pritha Sarkar)